August 16, 2009
Mrs. Wilson could not get her children to sleep in their beds. Each morning at 6:35 a.m. when she shuffled down the stairs to make coffee and watch the news, robe-and-slipper-clad, hair on end at ridiculous angles, her boys, Willy and George, 11 and 10, respectively, were sound asleep on the living room floor, cheeks resting dreamily on the brown-and-cream speckled shag carpet.
It hadn’t always been this way. For a good stretch of time after being toddlers, outgrowing night lights and sleeping in the bed with her and the boys’ father, Willy and George slept in their own bedrooms, placidly, normally. But one day, tripping on the way to the kitchen over Willy’s outflung arm, Mrs. Wilson found her sons comfortably asleep on the soft carpet.
She hadn’t anticipated it becoming a routine, but quickly learned otherwise. At first she stuck to the schedule, the way it had always been, tucking each boy separately into bed, smoothing each’s hair and kissing each’s forehead, saying goodnight, then soundlessly slipping out the door, which she kept open just a sliver, just in case. Still, in the morning the boys would be sprawled out on the floor of the living room.
Mrs. Wilson figured then that she would simply allow Willy and George to fall asleep downstairs, on the couch, on the carpet, who cared, and then, although they were getting bigger and it wasn’t as easy now, carry them up the stairs and plop them into bed.
When this, after a week of sore arms, still found the boys resting on the living room carpet by morning, Mrs. Wilson gave up. She considered it a failure as a mother that she couldn’t even carry out the simplest of mom-duties: putting her children to sleep in their own 500-count-sheeted, down-comforted, 20-year-guaranteed matressed beds.
Visions of George’s carpet-marked face when he gave her good morning hugs replayed in her head at all times. Vexed, she attempted to discern the appeal of downstairs sleeping. Apparently, both boys had no real attachment to the shag carpeting; subconsciously, during the night, they simply made their way to the first story of the house and resumed their slumber. When asked why, Willy said he didn’t know. George said simply, “Because I’m tired.”
But Mrs. Wilson was tired too. Tired of a deviant home life where her sons slept like refugees and she wasn’t a good enough mother to ensure they didn’t.
August 14, 2009
The dog was long on her bed, each leg of front and back set stretched to the limit. He was a cockapoo, a ghastly mix of cocker spaniel and poodle, the resulting tangle of short curls and overhanging mustache. When he was alive, she hated him. All that barking. No possibility of sneaking in through the back door when past curfew; the dog went apeshit at the faintest footstep. And the constant whining for attention, the begging for scraps, even when she had never given him so much as a corn kernel. The dog was loyal to one person, wholly and unwaveringly: her mother. If she even looked at her mother funny, she would be simultaneously hopping and grabbing at her ankles, futilely trying to shield them from the cockapoo’s dagger-sharp teeth.
But now, the dead dog was utterly still. Its eyes were closed; its ears flopped calmly down and grazed the down comforter. Normally the dog would never come into her room; now it was not only inside her room, but on her bed; not only on her bed, but dead on top of it. She had no clue how he had gotten there.
She was surprised to find that the strangest part about the situation was not the unexplained appearance of the dead canine, but the fact that she didn’t quite know what to feel. The first feeling, admittedly, was repulsion; the second, frustration (i.e., “Now I can’t take a nap on my bed,” “Now I have to wash my comforter,” “Now I have to Febreze away the smell of dog”); the third, confusion; and the fourth, happiness.
No, more than happiness, she thought. I am elated. She wondered if it was horrible to feel elated that something was alive, but now isn’t; if it was horrible that an animal’s heart was once beating, but to be so consumed with joy that it is no longer.
August 3, 2009
I wear her socks at night. They keep my legs warm up to the knee, these extra-long white tube socks with green rings at the top. When I wear them, I don’t wear pants; just boy-cut underwear and a thin tank top. I want to see how warm I can stay with just the socks.
When I am wearing this outfit, I pretend to be her. I look in my wall mirror, tie my hair back and imagine it blond, very blond, and long, feet longer than mine. What it felt like, that endless hair falling down on his face when she fucked him. Soft, I think. Not the most descriptive word, but likely the most accurate.
I stand on my tip-toes in the socks, slipping a bit on the hardwood floor of my bedroom. It’s slick from being freshly Swiffered by Esmerelda, the Brazilian cleaning lady that comes every Thursday, and I study my legs in the mirror, now the full-length that hangs on my closet door. They look good in her socks; not as good as hers, but good. If only I were a few inches taller. Fleetingly, I wonder if bone-stretching is performed in the U.S.
Stretching out on my perpetually unmade bed, I try to think thoughts that she would think. What to make for breakfast. The quickest way to the Ferry Plaza. How many years since meat was ingested.
Inside my third dresser drawer from the top is a photo album. I stole it from my boyfriend’s bedroom the same day I stole the socks; they were in the same trunk, nestled together in the corner, waiting. I get up, retrieve it. This is my nightly ritual.
The album was a gift from her. My own heart twisted when I read the inscription on the inside cover: “My heart is yours.”
My favorite picture is the fourth on a strip of old-fashioned, black-and-white photo booth shots. The first three are typically silly poses: finger-in-nose, cheeks puffed out, wide-open eyes. But in the last, he is framing her chin with his hands and moving — yes, the motion is evident — forward to kiss her, eyes halfway closed. He was falling in love at that very moment, and the moment was captured forever. The moment was placed into this album, the moment was probably overlooked by them both.
But now the moment that should be silent and far away gloats, and although I think I might want it to leave, I don’t really and it sleeps with me in my bed and I let it, so that I am no longer alone, but surrounded by the reminder that this is the only falling in love that I will ever see him do.